On a budget as small as $50 per week, a family of five requires resourcefulness and adaptability to not only stick to the budget, but to make healthful food choices.
You can conceptualize the $50 weekly budget as a $200 monthly budget: So, if you spend more than $50 one week, you can make up for it in other weeks, provided you do not exceed the total for that month. It helps to also break the $50 per week down to a per-meal cost: three meals a day for seven days, serving five family members equates to about 50 cents per meal per person.
Build a Cost-Friendly Pantry
The key to feeding a family of five on a small weekly budget is to work with a preexisting stash of low-cost quality food, notes family finance resource Thrifty Frugal Mom. By capitalizing on sales and buying in quantity when she can -- including as many bags of flour for 50 cents as her $200-per-month grocery budget allows -- she saves in the long run by planning meals around the items she already has on hand.
Plan Ahead: Grocery Lists and Menus
As frugal living resource Thrifty DIY Diva notes, keeping to a $50 weekly budget involves preplanning and sticking to a grocery list and menu for the week that you have devised in advance. Making the menu ahead of time helps to curb unnecessary purchases and allows you to strategize about how to work any leftovers into future meals.
Plan in conjunction with the weekly sales at your neighborhood grocery store. Look for loss leaders (products offered below cost) that are offered at a steep discount that week. Provided you minimize impulse buys, you could reap substantial savings on weekly deals.
Save Money With Coupons and Apps
You don't have to be an extreme couponer to feed your family on a stringent budget, but a variety of coupons and apps can help trim costs and keep you on target for the week.
E-Coupons, Printed and Printable Coupons
Thrifty Frugal Mom uses a combination of physical Sunday newspaper insert coupons, printable coupons she prints herself at home and e-coupons that she receives through her local supermarket card to meet her $200 monthly food budget. During one week, she saved a total of $18.45 with coupons.
Coupon sites that provide printable coupons include:
- Saving Star
- Manufacturer's websites
Another mother of a family of five, Today's Frugal Mom, gets more mileage out of her weekly food budget by using apps such as Checkout 51, Favado and Ibotta. Checkout 51 and Ibotta are apps that give cash back on different promotional items each week, which can help you save money, even when you don't have coupons on hand. Another app, Favado, helps you cut down on the time you spend searching for coupons and deals at local stores.
Focus on Inexpensive Nutrient-Dense Options
While cost is certainly of the essence for the family of five under a $50 weekly food budget, meeting nutritional needs is also a key goal. Registered holistic nutritionist Vivian Cheng suggests budget-friendly food items such as sardines, leafy greens and eggs for their high nutrient profile and low cost. Sardines contain essential fatty acids, calcium and Vitamin D and as of April 2015 can cost 89 cents per can; spinach is packed with vitamins E, C and K and can be 99 cents per bunch; eggs provide zinc and protein for about $2 a dozen.
Thrifty DIY Diva sticks to inexpensive, but energy-packed foods, such as eggs, yogurt and bananas. As of April 2015, those foods would cost $1.50, 30 cents per individual container and 50 cents a pound respectively. For a family of five, a yogurt a day for each family member would come out to $10.50 for the week.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers guidelines on eating healthy on a budget based on the type of food and which aisle you can find the food in your grocery store:
- Fruits and vegetables: opt for canned and frozen fruits and vegetables over fresh, otherwise buy in-season produce. Canned products generally cost less than their fresh counterparts while being equally nutritious.
- Protein: low-cost options include split peas and lentils, value pack meats and canned salmon and tuna.
- Dairy and Beverage: eliminate soda and sugary juice drinks and opt for water; choose large container yogurts rather than individual cups.